Saturday, 2 June 2018

Changing the World through effective Youth Ministry

I think Ken Moser is like a cross between Brian Cosby and Tim Hawkings. Ken has lived in Canada and Australia, so that may explain the crossover. After reading Cosby and Hawkings, I don't think I got much new out of this. If anything it was kinda the same thing, but it felt a little duller. Moser did write a few funny comments but I thought they didn't work that well. However, I doubt you will read this book for its light entertainment. I don't think Moser would want you to as well. Instead, this book is kinda a handbook for youth ministry and encourages you to think through the reason, purpose of youth in general and for each element of each night.

While I do think an unexamined youth group is not worth going to (Socrates said something like that) I think Moser may push things a little too far in over analyzing everything. Schaffer points out, when surveying the history of thought, that Petrarch was the first person we hear of who climbed a mountain for the sake of climbing a mountain. Moser would have none of that. Moser would like a reason, more than the sake of it, for climbing a mountain. He would want it to have something to do with building relationships with the youth and to strengthen their relationship with Jesus. You can't just run a game or an event for the sake of it, you need a good reason for it. Fun isn't necessarily a good reason either. Fun is a by-product of doing something together. Rather than aiming for a fun time we should be aiming for a good time.

Now I do get Moser, and I do think we shouldn't just be passing the time, or just babysitting teenagers until their parents pick them up, we should be making the most of the opportunities we have to tell people about Jesus and we should think through why we do things. But my worry is that an overly focused, overly thought-out and overly programmed night might only attract those who have a higher than average reading age, who have longer than normal attention spans and those who cope with being institutionalized. It all felt a bit pragmatic and a product of the modern era. It didn't feel very personal where you can do things for the sake of doing things together - there had to be an official reason or agenda for everything. My pushback here may just be based on the style of the book and not the content, but for some reason, I resonated more with Hawkins, Fruit that will Last than this book, and some would say they pretty much say the same thing.

Besides overthinking your program, Moser did bring up a good issue of "flow", or transitioning between different stages of life, from primary school to high school, from school to uni or work, etc. He emphasized a need for a good flow, which I appreciated and think in my own setting I need to do some thinking in that space.

While two paragraphs above I sounded a bit negative, I do think generally Moser is right. Throughout the book, Moser gives examples of groups he has run or groups he has gone to in order help steer in a certain direction. I found these examples useful. I get the impression that Moser is kinda like a consultant who is also on the front line of youth ministry who you call in for expert help. 

The book was helpful and I will probably read another Moser book soon. At the end of each chapter was a good summary of what was said, without some other useful details and frameworks. Below I am posting these summaries mostly for my own sake so that I can come back to this for a reference.

Areas We Must Work On in Youth Ministry
There are many problems we face in youth ministry: we don't attract as many youth as we'd like, we don't keep those we reach, we don't build strong leaders for the future and we aren't producing a strong community of adults. We this in mind, there are many areas we need to work on in youth ministry:
1. We need to build up before reaching out.
2. We need to be careful of a program built around entertainment
3. We need to stop our dropout rate.
4. We need structures that produce fruit.

Building on the Right Foundations
If you want to do effective youth ministry, you must build on the right foundations. It isn't enough to have a strong desire and then go for it. To build something truly special, you must build on the right foundations and you must build well.

Get Discipleship Right and Everything Else Will Follow
Discipleship is crucial to the overall health of your youth ministry. Your group must be seen to be a group that is committed to Jesus. This must be evident to all. If discipleship is done well, you should see effective evangelism and many problem areas resolved.

A Model for Effective Youth Ministry
Most of us fall into the trap of programming for outreach. In doing this, we often neglect solid discipleship in an attempt to keep newcomers happy. The way forward is to build first (disciples) and then to reach out through those who you've built up. Once this is done, you can begin a program "flow", making sure the youth move to an older group as they grow up.

Setting Goals
Godly goals must provide our vision and motivation. Set good goals, communicate them clearly, and let them influence every aspect of your program. Even if some in the church disagree with the goals you have set, stay with it - don't give up!

Making Sure the Program is Designed to Reach Our Goal
Your program must be designed to meet the goals you have set. Look critically at every component of your program and make sure that it does just that.

Your Weekly Meeting
- Your weekly meeting is the place where you make every effort to reach your goals.
- Your gathering is to be a place that reflects the Kingdom of God.
- Think carefully about every aspect of your weekly time together.

Creative Ideas for Meetings
There are many things that your group can do each week that are fun, helpful and Christian. Think through your weekly meeting and construct it to be Christian, relational and enjoyable.

Small Group Bible Studies are Crucial for Building Disciples
A weekly small group Bible study is one of the very best ways to develop strong Christians and strengthen the youth ministry as a whole. Small group Bible studies will promote discipleship and solid Christian relationships. Single-sex, age-specific groups are the best to run. Your goal in the study is to teach the Scriptures in a warm environment under the leadership of a godly older Christian.

The Better the Leaders, the Beter the Group
Your leadership team is the backbone of your ministry. Make every effort to find and develop good leaders. Strive for unity and meet together regularly to study the Scriptures and to pray.

Fun (or How to Run a Bible Centered, Christ Honoring, Holiness building, Loving, Attractive, Youth Program that is Enjoyable as Well!)
Be careful of giving "fun" too high a place in youth ministry. If you get your priorities right fun should happen naturally. Seek to develop loving relationships in a godly environment. If what we are doing is good, and it is done well, we will almost certainly have fun.

Guidelines for Good Socials
Don't confuse an active social program with being evangelistic. Never use socials to fill time; they must have a purpose and goal. Socials must allow the group to interact and mix; they must be creative and memorable and they must be fun!

Bringing change: Slash 'n' burn or Stealth mode
Think carefully when it comes to bringing change to your program. Think through why your program needs to change and how you are going to bring it. Change must be designed to promote Chrisitan growth. In addition to this, know your strengths and limitations and ensure the support of the minister and key elders.

Starting out, Starting from Scratch
- Lay foundations upon which you can build (joy, purpose, expectation, commitment, community)
- Build to reach others (evangelism strategy)
- Build for the long term (flow)


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